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Happy Christmas, the ULA, and Merry diminishing participation! December 14, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

Never a dull moment these days. Depressing ones, sure. Difficult ones, yep. But dull, no. I have to admit that talking to a few of us from the CLR this week the subject came up in conversation that there was an odd dearth of SP voices on the site over the past while. The perhaps unkind suggestion came up that perhaps something was afoot as regards the ULA.

And lo and behold! It appears from the latest statement that:

For the Socialist Party, the battle against the household and property taxes is a priority, and it will take more of our focus and work and as mentioned, in that context we will be diminishing our participation in the ULA.

However, in doing this we are not in any way stepping away from the struggle to help to build a new working class party on a principled basis. That is precisely what can happen in an organic way, by fighting on these issues which can potentially bring thousands of ordinary working class people into activity, which is essential if a new mass working class party is to be built.

It’s a fascinating statement and well worth reading.

I’ve noted before that there was a curious tension at the heart of the ULA, a dynamic where almost from the off it seemed that some involved didn’t want it to become much more than it was while on the other hand others didn’t want to be seen to be the first to pull the plug, while there appeared to be a broader consensus albeit tacit that it had electoral benefits. The recent history across this autumn with suggestions of suspensions of the ULA and such like doesn’t do much to alter that perception, even if there’s a certain ambiguity about the phrase ‘diminishing participation’.

It will be educative to see what response if any is forthcoming on this matter.

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1. Organized Rage - December 14, 2012

I would be interested to here from Irish comrades about where this leaves the ULA.

dilettante - December 16, 2012

I guess that it leaves the ULA in a very difficult situation. If the SP had withdrawn (which would have been a more honest move) then the others could have tried to do something – register ULA as a party, run more candidates in future elections, etc.

I presume the SP “diminishing” their participation means keeping a veto over any development in the ULA which might allow it to complicate the SP party building strategy.
For example, the SP have obviously calculated that it will be easier to take a seat in place of Clare Daly in Dublin North if she appears on the ballot paper as “independent”.

It’s not a stupid strategy by the SP. Their target seats will not be won or lost on the basis of them running as part of the ULA. And the candidates that might get a boost from the ULA label are not SP candidates.

The SWP will be happy. They can offer the PBPA label to Clare Daly and other prospective candidates (as an alternative to independent). And they can present the PBPA as being the “real” ULA. Probably won’t convince most ULA members but might attract a few desperate souls.

Organized Rage - December 16, 2012

Thanks, if the Irish far left (for want of a better word) are unable to join together in the current situation and work towards a broad left party, I doubt they ever will. What is desperately need is a strong parliamentary Left force working in tandem on the street, workplace, etc. I had hoped the ULA would morph into this.

If we are to believe the SP reasoning, they are not capable of achieving both, although from here it looks like they are engaged in a spoiler as they are pissed off with Clare and Wallace having lost control of the former.

Perhaps I am being unfair due to fog in the Irish sea, but it is not as if there is not a road map when it comes to the CWI.

WorldbyStorm - December 16, 2012

What is desperately need is a strong parliamentary Left force working in tandem on the street, workplace, etc. I had hoped the ULA would morph into this.


critical media review - December 16, 2012

I think it is becoming clear the Sp have an inability to grow beyond anything they cannot completely control. If the cawht does develop and grow beyond single issue status the leadership will run into the same problems that they have with the ULA – a membership. Time maybe to broaden out the ULA to the wp and CPI etc. If they’d be crazy enough to get involved.

que - December 16, 2012

“I think it is becoming clear the Sp have an inability to grow beyond anything they cannot completely control”

The Sp have been around now for decades and off the deepest capitalist crisis for decades pulled in 2 seats, joined an alliance to build the left, and in the mean time lost one of those seats while deciding to pull back on the broad coalition of the left in order to follow its now decades old project of paradoxically building a mass party of the left – but not the ULA cause that could never be it. Your point seems like an understatement CMR doesnt it.

Truthfully who is surprised.

Jolly Red Giant - December 16, 2012

The Socialist Party is not an electoral party – While it participates in elections it is not the only sphere of activity for the party (its not even the main sphere of activity for the party).

You can gloat about the Socialist Party’s ‘failure’ in electoral terms but it is currently the only revolutionary Marxist party in Europe to have its members elected to a national parliament under its own banner.

The ‘left’ will not be built by the coming together of existing left forces – that has been tried on numerous occasions before and failed miserably. The Socialist Party has consistently stated that a new left party will only be built when the working class moves into struggle and new fresh layers of activists draw political conclusions on the necessity to build a political alternative. That has not happened with the ULA and the current situation within the ULA is one of manoeuvring for personal (and organisational) poltical gain rather than a genuine attempt of existing left forces to work together. The Socialist Party has no interest in engaging in such activities which is why it is diverting much needed resources from the ULA to other important activities for the moment. The ULA may still play an important role as an electoral alliance for the moment – but in reality that is all it can be until the political machinations of individuals and groups stop and activists draw conclusions of the necessity of joining a broad left formation (which may or may not be the ULA),

que - December 16, 2012

I dont gloat about the SP’s ‘failure’ in electoral terms (and btw do we need the quotes – are we disputing its failure or is one seat out of 166 something else). I think a functioning Socialist party is needed in Ireland. I want to see a functioning Socialist Party. I have no doubt that the SP is not, never will be and only prevents a functioning socialist party from happening.

Suggesting that electoral politics is only one aspect of struggle while other channels are also built is okay but it can also be a pretence to cover actual failure of the electoral aspect of the strategy – the people dont vote for us but we have their support in other ways. But if you cant get them to stop voting Labour, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail do you really have their support. You can say you do but the elections are a great way to show how large your real support – the poll of polls – is in the Irish population and well clearly its not alot and thats true for all aspects of your struggle not just the electoral aspect and its ‘failures’.

“but it is currently the only revolutionary Marxist party in Europe to have its members elected to a national parliament under its own banner.”

Does that point to the dynamism of the SP amongst revolutionary Marxist parties in Europe or does it point to how moribund the revolutionary Marxist brand is in Europe. Its not like Europe is thriving. 1/10 in Europe live in states collapsing (S and G). Another 1/10 live in a state rapidly heading that way(Italy) and about another 1/10 (france, irl, port) live in countires not yet collapsing but moving there. 30% of Europe in dire straits and the lead revolutionary Marxist party has 1/166.

If thats criteria for success then indeed those commas around failure are well placed.

Jolly Red Giant - December 16, 2012

que – unfortunately you appear to have zero understanding of the nature of society, the level of political consciousness and the scale of the work that is required to build the ‘left’. Society does not operate to your norms or politics – it operates to the norms and politics dictated by the class struggle.

Has and is the Socialist Party a success ? – until the establishment of a socialist society the work of the Socialist Party and others on the left will not be completed. If that happens the Socialist Party will have been a success and until that happens there is a mountain of work to be done.

que - December 16, 2012

Yes that must be it. When I see the SP and most other left wing projects struggling then its because I, and presumably other voters, cant determine the true nature of society.

At best that reason simply points out how the SP et al. are not making headway in explaining the true nature. Plug away with the same approach though. It’ll work one day and at least nobody can say you were gradualists or whatever.

Good night.

A Friend - December 17, 2012

“the Socialist Party’s ‘failure’ in electoral terms but it is currently the only revolutionary Marxist party in Europe to have its members elected to a national parliament under its own banner.” – what does this madness mean? The SP would seem to rather wreck anything they don’t lead – Clare Daly is a flawed and damaged politician due to her continued involvement with the vine yard hiding, tax avoiding, worker exploiting long haired sex machine worsel – but the SP needs to have a rethink, or, at the very best, disband.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 17, 2012

JRG – the thing I don’t get is why you think the term “revolutionary Marxist” is appropriate for the SP given the overt reformism of the programme you present to the working class.

But leaving that aside the big thing about the ULA that irritated me was the SP’s duplicity.

As Ruth’s by-election manifesto makes clear you were telling the working class to join the ULA to be part of launching a new workers’ party (and I know there is a legalistic defence about the exact wording but the intent is absolutely clear). But then when not enough workers took up your advice you threw the brakes on and pretended that you had never had that intention.

It is very hard to take “revolutionary Marxists” seriously when they mislead working class militants like this.

That being said there is much that is true in what the SP argue about the reasons for the failure of the ULA to grow. It is not like anyone else, to their left or right, is filling the void in working class politics. As far as I can tell, for better or worse, the SP are in fact the most significant working class political current in Ireland today and the ones most likely to see an immediate gain in membership and influence when the Irish working class does start to move into collective action.

Ciarán - December 17, 2012

Just out of curiosity, has the SP ever referred to itself publicly as a revolutionary Marxist party? For example in party/election literature.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 17, 2012

Try searching for “revolutionary Marxist” on their web site – not a lot of hits…

I did a jpg of the results for those too lazy to actually go do that – http://revolutionaryprogramme.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/not_very_often.jpg

2. Julian Assandwich - December 14, 2012

Respond how? The SP, like the inscrutable inanimate monolith in 2000 Space Odyssey, remain a complete mystery and closed to all human contact.

The ULA, like your average SP member I’m sure, learn about the bi-weekly regurgitated “worries” of the SP leadership – typically “X is a fecker” – through these parchments handed down through the SP website like everyone else. (Or the ominous late motion from Dublin West *sky thunders*)

In fact, that pretty much is the content of that long sprawling largely unintelligible mess. Shape up SP. We all need them on their game for whats ahead.

Mark P - December 14, 2012

Respond any way you like.

As for it being “unintelligible”, there’s nothing in it you should find particularly difficult to understand. That goes for the parts about the CAHWT, the parts about Daly and Wallace and the cowardice of other elements of the ULA when it comes to her behaviour, and all of the rest of it.

The Socialist Party has better things to be doing with its very limited resources.

Julian Assandwich - December 14, 2012

Yes, the SP does have better things to be doing. Absolutely correct.

Hopefully you can find the time to tow your very limited resources into formation in the New Year for the austerity/property tax/choice battles ahead.

ejh - December 14, 2012

As for it being “unintelligible”, there’s nothing in it you should find particularly difficult to understand.

To be fair an executive summary wouldn’t go amiss. Précis is a much underrated skill on the further left.

WorldbyStorm - December 14, 2012

From Arthur Clarke’s The Sentinel, which 2001 was based on…

It has taken us twenty years to crack that invisible shield and to reach the machine inside those crystal walls. What we could not understand, we broke at last with the savage might of atomic power and now I have seen the fragments of the lovely, glittering thing I found up there on the mountain.
They are meaningless. The mechanisms-if indeed they are mechanisms-of the pyramid belong to a technology that lies far beyond our horizon, perhaps to the technology of para-physical forces.

LeftAtTheCross - December 14, 2012

And that says it all really WbS.

And +1 to cai below, ‘ffs’ indeed.

Mark P - December 14, 2012

What resources are the Workers Party putting into the ULA, LATC, given that you seem to think that there’s some kind of duty on people to build it?

LeftAtTheCross - December 14, 2012

None MarkP, the WP wasn’t invited to your party.

Mark P - December 14, 2012

In fact it was invited, LATC, and it declined.

LeftAtTheCross - December 14, 2012

Right so. I’ve no interest in debating with you the difference between a formal invitation and goodwill.

Mark P - December 14, 2012

“And that says it all really… ffs indeed”

Mark P - December 14, 2012

I’m glad to hear that we are in agreement that putting more resources into the ULA as it currently stands would be a waste of time and effort, Julian.

3. cai - December 14, 2012

They can stress need, stress other issues but ffs is all I can say about it. You are going nowhere in politics here unless you have at least 10-15 TD’s. The ULA as a combined serious force may have done that, the individual ones not a hope.

Building a functioning party with scale and clout is the priority, not getting distracted on one issue. One hit wonder strategy never works.

que - December 16, 2012

‘Building a functioning party with scale and clout is the priority, not getting distracted on one issue’

Yeah but the thing is the SP is now focussing on building a mass working class party. That will answer your priority no?

‘One hit wonder strategy never works’ – what then about a zero hit strategy thats been pursued dogmatically for years?

ffs really does sum it up completely.

4. littlemicky2012 - December 14, 2012

I am curious about one thing in particular. when the ULA was formed the issue of Abortion rights was kept off the agenda by agreement. Yet in this article it is of crucial importance. Why wasn’t it of crucial importance when the alliance was being formed?

Mark P - December 14, 2012

Abortion rights was not kept off the agenda by agreement. As for the current issue, the tactical disagreement over how much to emphasise X Case legislation versus abortion rights is not itself of “crucial importance”.

littlemicky2012 - December 14, 2012

I am sorry Mark but at the public launch of the ULA in Cork Richard Boyd Barrett said in a reply to a question on same that the ULA didn’t have position on abortion no one on the platform corrected him. I am not trying to stir just curious as to why any socialist party would allow such a key issue to be left aside. As we can see it always comes back and will do until we have abortion rights in this country. Interestingly RBB gave the same response at the PBP launch in Cork a few years before. I guess I was wrong to say the ULA might coalesce with SF and Labour in the future as I cannot see the ULA lasting now. But I am still interested in what was meant by a “left led government” in an Irish context.

Mark P - December 14, 2012

Boyd Barrett was correct that the ULA didn’t initially have a position on abortion. You are not correct to assume from that this was because there was some general agreement not to take one.

As for “left led governments” I have no idea what you are talking about here. The ULA, assuming it stays together, will not join a coalition with Labour or Sinn Fein. I can guarantee that because (a) there is no chance of the numbers being there, (b) there is no chance of Labour and Sinn Fein agreeing to such a coalition, (c) there is not chance of the ULA agreeing to such a coalition and (d) even if all of that somehow did happen the Socialist Party would veto it immediately.

littlemicky2012 - December 14, 2012

Okay fair enough so there was no position because the components didn’t think it a key issue when forming the alliance.
The term “left led government” comes from Joe Higgins. He said it was the only context in which the ULA would be in government. I don’t expect you to know what it means I just thought you or someone else might have. So the position of the SP is no government until there is a socialist majority. I think you are wrong about Sinn Fein as their stated position in the last election was for a coalition of the “left” including the ULA. As for the Labour party they have always been fairly flexible. If the numbers will not be there for that coalition it seems unlikely that a majority socialist government is any closer. But thanks for clarifying as much as you could.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 14, 2012

It is hard to not think that the reason the ULA didn’t have a position on abortion rights was because the component organisations all considered it too dangerous electorally.

The SP and SWP are now falling over themselves to trumpet their pro-choice credentials (with a close eye on the opinion polls) but both have no coherent explanation for why this crucial issue of women’s rights was missing from no only the ULA platform but their own election manifestos as well.

Jolly Red Giant - December 15, 2012

The stuff about avoiding promoting abortion rights because it was ‘dangerous electorally’ is actually nauseating Alan – and the worst of sectarian slurs.

The Socialist Party has had a position of demanding full abortion rights for women since its inception as the Militant Tendency in 1973. The Socialist Party openly campaigned against all the so-called ‘pro-life’ referenda, against all efforts by right-wing reactionary groups to campaign against abortion and contraception rights and have actively supported the pro-choice movement since its inception.

The nonsense about hiding the abortion ‘issue’ because of fear of losing votes is just that – nonsense. If that were the case then the Socialist Party would not have worked with pro-choice activists to draft a private members bill on abortion rights to be submitted to the Dail in 2007 – just prior to a general election.

The Socialist Party makes absolutely no apology to anyone for its pro-choice position, makes no apology to anyone for not stating the Socialist Party position on every poster or leaflet (as if it was the only issue affecting working class women) and makes absolutely no apology for actively campaigning for abortion rights in the aftermath of the tragic death of Savita (whose untimely death would not have been prevented by legislation based on the X-case).

Kevin Higgins - December 15, 2012

“The Socialist Party has had a position of demanding full abortion rights for women since its inception as the Militant Tendency in 1973. The Socialist Party openly campaigned against all the so-called ‘pro-life’ referenda, against all efforts by right-wing reactionary groups to campaign against abortion and contraception rights and have actively supported the pro-choice movement since its inception.”

I’m sorry, but this is not exactly the truth. I was a member of Militant, joining in 1982. At the 1983 Labour Youth conference which took place at Liberty Hall in January 1983 there was a resolution on the conference agenda from Galway West Labour Youth, of which I was a member, calling on the Labour Party to oppose and actively campaign against the proposed anti-abortion ammedment – the one that has caused so much of the trouble in relation to this issue.

The resolution was to be taken and voted on on the Sunday morning of the conference. That morning, the Galway delegation where asked to meet a leading comrade (one of the full timers) in the foyer outside the hall where the conference was taking place. We were told that it was the leadership’s view that if this resolution was passed it could be picked up on by the media and used by the Labour Party leadership to attack Labour Youth and Militant. We were told that, when the resolution was called later that morning, it would be best if there was no one from Galway West in the hall to propose it. In which case the motion would fall.

This is what happened. Later on Militant’s position improved greatly on this issue. But that was the reality at the time.

WorldbyStorm - December 15, 2012

I made the point on Politicalworld that the line about the 2007 election makes very little sense in the context of PMBs (or the 2002 referendum on abortion legislation). Why draft one so late in that Dáil term, let alone think about submitting it given that everyone knew the general election had to be held in early 2007? It makes no sense. Moreover there’s also the point that any TD can put forward a PMB without a debate, in other words it will go into the record. Not hugely useful or effective, but certainly a means of putting down a marker. Yet that wasn’t done either. Indeed nor was a PMB on the matter in either form submitted from 1997 onwards. This doesn’t mean that the SP is insincere in its adherence to a pro-choice position, but it would perhaps indicate a certain prioritisation of issues.

revolutionaryprogramme - December 15, 2012

JRG – well if it wasn’t because of perceived electoral advantage what was the reason for this key issue of women’s liberation in Ireland being left out of the SP’s general election and by-election manifestos in 2011?

Jolly Red Giant - December 15, 2012

WbS – answered before and answered again on politicalworld – you are attempting to p*ss against the wrong tree on this one.

Alan – answered that one too – and i really have no intention of repeating myself over and over just to prolong your whinge-fest.

WorldbyStorm - December 15, 2012

Not answered before JRG. Go back to the 29th of November and look at this thread here to see that you did not outline the rationale or answer the questions put to you then.


revolutionaryprogramme - December 15, 2012

JRG – are you serious? Looked at your previous post and all I can see is:

“makes no apology to anyone for not stating the Socialist Party position on every poster or leaflet (as if it was the only issue affecting working class women)”

And you put that forward as an answer to the question of why there was no mention at all of abortion rights in the 2011 general and by-election MANIFESTOS – not a particular poster or leaflet but the manifestos.

So my question about the election manifestos retains all its validity.

To present the above comment as being that answer is worse than pathetic.

que - December 16, 2012

The SP prioritising certain issues or put differently focusing on some fights above and over other fights simply out of a need to manage resources to ensure some progress rather than zero progress would be a good thing surely. Not every fight can be won.

I think the SP are a waste of time and votes but its hardly fair to suggest they were tactical about pursuing the abortiuon issue when at the same time we are discussing, and bemoaning, their dogmatic, isolationsist tendencies.

If for once they managed to tactically move so as to build further strength and deliver at a later date then that was surely good.
As it is they’ve gone back to being ideologically pure and delivering nothing. Doesnt help either does it.

5. revolutionaryprogramme - December 14, 2012


“Amazing article really – it was the fault of everybody else – we did nothing wrong!

“But it does capture a lot of the reality of where the ULA is at right now. Unable to operate as even a coherent electoral bloc and the two main components, the SP & SWP, having voted with their feet for some time now in terms of their real priorities.

“Given this reality of recent months it is hard to imagine what the SP’s statement that “we will be diminishing our participation in the ULA” could possibly mean. I guess we get an idea from their refusal to send any representatives to the last ULA national steering committee meeting and proposing the date of a major rally for the CAHWT on 12 Jan – the same day set aside some time ago for a major discussion on the future of the ULA by the steering committee. It would seem the SP have completely pre-empted that discussion by effectively saying there is no future of the ULA as far as they are concerned, except perhaps as a badge of convenience in the Dáil though once the bourgeois media gets through with this statement that would seem rather moot as well.”

WorldbyStorm - December 14, 2012

For any that are interested a thread on Politicalworld here on the topic


6. Kevin Higgins - December 14, 2012

Well, in the words of Ronald Reagan, there you go again http://upstart.ie/blog/?p=801

Jolly Red Giant - December 15, 2012

Quoting Ronald Reagan – excuse me while I ROTFLMFAO

Kevin Higgins - December 15, 2012

One does not get the impression, old boy, that you are doing much laughing these days. But while I have your Jolliness, here’s another one for you. When anyone even half sane reads the latest SP/McLouglin statement it makes one want to paraphrase something the late Mr Haughey once said about the editorials in the Irish Times: who writes these Socialist Party statements? I think it’s an old woman sitting in the bath with the water gone cold around her fanny.

7. critical media review - December 15, 2012

I wonder is it possible for a bureaucracy to self-combust on its own contradictions? I wonder will we see or hear any reaction to this direction from rank and file members of the Sp? Or is the organisation dead on the inside? Time for non-sectarian sp’ers to stand up and be counted?

Julian Assandwich - December 15, 2012


8. rotpeterderaffe - December 15, 2012


9. revolutionaryprogramme - December 15, 2012

Oh and to Mark P, Pat, JRG who all claim the SP NEVER said that the ULA was about launching a new workers party – perhaps you should have a closer re-read of the 2011 general election 8-point manifesto (http://www.socialistparty.net/component/content/article/63-elections/608-socialist-party-election-manifesto)

“Elect Socialist Party/ULA TDs so we can launch a new party to organise working class people”

There it is in black and white on your own web site!

Pasianario - December 15, 2012

If the SP leave the ULA, it could be no bad thing. It would leave Daly and the others free to try and construct a broader party involving some of the left independents and Labour refuseniks.

By my reckoning, it could be possible to pull together about 10TDs. Where do you think RBB and Joan Collins would stand on that? The former is SWP — are they still as determined as ever to lead the revolution all by themselves? Or have they become less dogmatic?

revolutionaryprogramme - December 16, 2012

The SWP are no more interested in building the ULA as a new party than the SP – they are just less honest about it than the SP.

10. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - December 16, 2012

The SP are determined that when huge numbers move into struggle they led by led by them; the SWP that they will be led by them. Or to be more personal about it, by Kevin McLaughlin and Keiran Allen. Alternative projects that might generate enthusiasm or even, god forbid, new leaders, are objects of suspicion.

11. Jim Monaghan - December 17, 2012

Could I ask everyone to leave out venom. I am as annoyed as everyone at the outcome of this debacle. There is an EU and Local election due in 2014. I don’t expect a revolution before then and if there was one it would be a rightwing one.
If the left is to keep its only EU seat then a United Front would be needed. The SP do not have the numbers to do it and even a united approach would and will find it tough. Warts and all we need this seat and a good show in the locals.Further on we could be complacent about teh 5 “ULA” seats.
An opportunity to create something was missed but we will not convince anyone to do better by invective.
When the dist settles the same problems will be there. Maybe a purely electoral alliance is all that can be hoped for. If there is one let us try and include all the far left.

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